Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Daughter-Dungeon of Joseph Fritzl

Pre-Trial Revelations: Abusive Mother, Vengeful Son

Fritzl has told forensic psychiatrist Kastner that his mother regularly severely beat him as a child, kicking him even when he collapsed to the floor, bleeding. She never hugged or kissed him or told him she loved him, Fritzl claims, and she brought him into this world only to prove to his father that she wasn't infertile. The couple went through a bitter divorce, and she raised Fritzl alone, working as a servant and diligently taking him to church. Whether she was an astute judge of character or this was a self-fulfilling prophecy, his mother called young Josef a devil and a criminal.   

Josef Fritzl
Josef Fritzl

When Fritzl married, he moved his wife, Rosemarie, into his mother's Amstetten home. In 1959 he told friends that his mother had passed away. In fact, his mother lived until 1980 — imprisoned in the top floor of Fritzl's house. Once he learned how to bully his old tormentor, he locked her in a room, bricking over the windows to deprive the old woman of even the light of day.

The leaked information further reveals that Fritzl traveled to Ghana in 1963 in search of easy sex; he notes that, afraid of sexually transmitted diseases, he consorted only with "nice girls", never prostitutes. It also confirms that in 1967 he was sentenced to 18 months in prison for the Linz rape. There he decided that a secret dungeon would let him explore without consequence what he saw as his inescapably fated dark side. Dr. Kastner writes that Fritzl was comfortable raping his daughter, Elisabeth, if he avoided looking her in the face. He convinced himself that his crimes were slight. His justification? He would have committed greater atrocities had he not imprisoned and abused Elisabeth. Fritzl claims he was "born to rape." He says that he did not abuse the children he fathered with Elisabeth; the children reportedly claim otherwise. Fritzl maintains that his second family offered him a fresh chance for a loving family, asserting that the children he had fathered with Rosemarie were cold and distant with him, and that Rosemarie had grown fat.

Fritzl will presumably use his mother's abuse as part of his defense. Kastner has declared that he suffers from a severe combined personality disorder and a sexual disorder, but that he's fit to stand trial. She recommends that the evil family jailer spend the rest of his life in prison. He would likely be held in Goellersdorf in the same prison for the criminally insane as Robert Ackerman, the teenage cannibal murderer.

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